TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A battle is brewing at the New Jersey Statehouse over whether to cap salary increases for public employees who can’t strike.

Mayors want arbitration awards to police and firefighters capped at 2 percent to help them control property taxes.

Union officials say a 2 percent ceiling on salary and benefits awards would mean pay givebacks once health care cost increases are factored in.

Both sides will make their case to a Senate committee Thursday.

Gov. Chris Christie’s reform agenda includes making the arbitration process more favorable to municipalities.

Christie signed a law limiting property tax increases to 2 percent a year beginning in January.

Mayors say they’ll have to cut services unless the state finds ways to help them lower costs.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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